Document search is doomed for the SaaS graveyard

We were absolutely convinced that finding documents across cloud apps was the best problem for us to solve. We had done tons of customer research. Hundreds of interviews and onboarding calls, thousands of survey responses, dozens of user tests, it goes on and on. 

We were sure that the problem was painful and worth pursuing. 

And then suddenly, we weren’t.

We had to face reality. Document search was literally a dead end. Our dreams of building a massive business focused entirely on document search were over.

Back in August 2020, my co-founder Marie and I wrote an internal document called “It’s Time to Pivot” to solidify our thinking on why we had to drop the document search focus. We wanted to make sure that we weren’t making a hasty decision about the future of our business.

We didn’t appreciate back then just how much that one document would affect us. It was the thing that led us to pivot 100% away from document search for employees and into document access control for IT. 

But what was wrong with document search? After all, there are still a bunch of companies in the space trying to win hearts and minds.

Here are a few excerpts from our “It’s Time to Pivot” document.

Committees rule the buying process
In trying to sell our product to companies, we quickly learned that there was no one buyer or single owner for document search tools. Instead, there were committees. Take someone from IT, sprinkle in a few people from engineering, add in an HR leader and someone from the product side, and you’ve got yourself a team of people who are going to do a lot of work for 3-9 months and then abandon it all. We met with committee after committee and saw enterprise search initiatives die again and again.

Too many apps
Our perspective was that to give customers enough context to find the documents they need, we had to get information from the APIs of each app that a company uses. The need to build integrations for different collaboration apps was huge because every company used a different set of apps. Google Workspace, Office 365, Box, Dropbox, Dropbox Paper, Miro, Notion, Coda, Figma, and more. This meant we had to integrate with app after app. We ended up building 24 integrations before we paused the effort.

Inadequate APIs
We learned that early and new APIs, while exciting, are a drag. Some products took years to add APIs, and once they were ready we quickly realized their functionality was inadequate for what we needed to build. And then there were all the API changes and deprecations we had to keep on top of. Plus, even the APIs of more established apps were missing information we needed to populate our interface. It became a never-ending mountain of work and even then it would lead to an inconsistent experience for our customers. The APIs were not consistent across apps, so many of our integrations remained incomplete.

Adoption issues
Our goal was to have widespread adoption of our tool across an organization. It’s usually called “wall-to-wall” adoption. We discovered that even the collaboration apps we integrated with don’t get full company adoption. Notion, Coda, Airtable, Dropbox Paper, even Google Drive don’t get used by every single person at a company. Oftentimes departments use specific tools in isolation from the rest of the company. Even though a company might use G Suite, the legal and finance teams might refuse to use it and instead collaborate on Office 365. How could we expect our search tool to get full company adoption if the collaboration apps can’t in the first place?

Locked down auth
Our strategy was to get adoption from the bottom up within companies. A groundswell of employee app usage would mean that we’d be able to sell in at the company level easier. Except many companies lock down the ability for employees to authenticate with apps without permission. Some even lock down the ability to download apps or install chrome extensions. This meant the bottom-up strategy would only work at smaller companies, and typically not at larger companies. We wouldn’t be able to scale the business and get wall-to-wall adoption without a top-down sales motion.

In hindsight, it’s easy to assume that we should have recognized these challenges earlier. But in reality, you can paralyze your execution if you take every challenge too seriously. Worse yet, you might not even get started if you focus on the challenges versus executing to learn.

When you start a company, you never know where you’re going to end up. The journey and learnings along the way are what determine where you go.

For us, getting as far as we did on the document search product helped us discover the massive opportunity that we’re on to now. Along the way, we were also able to gain priceless experience working with APIs and building out the technical capabilities to deliver on the critical needs of our new IT customers. That experience enabled us to build truly unique technology that’s solving a major problem for companies of all sizes.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share more about what’s in store for the next chapter of our journey.

Take care,

Hiten =)











Copyright © 2021 Up Advisors, LLC., All rights reserved.
You received this email because you signed up to get emails from Product Habits.

Our mailing address is:
Up Advisors, LLC.
13337 South St. #269
Cerritos, California 90623

Add us to your address book


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list

Older messages

Is your product good enough?

Monday, May 24, 2021

It's not enough to have a product that is better than the competition. It has to motivate people to change their behavior. Hiten's Pick Saying the Difficult Things It's easy to say you'

The story of our pivot

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Marie (my co-founder) and I were in San Francisco at the office of a 50-person startup to meet with the CEO who was using our document search product. Marie (my co-founder) and I were in San Francisco

Lessons from the inventor of Amazon Prime

Monday, May 17, 2021

Bing Gordon shares the lessons he learned in the process of starting Amazon Prime and serving on the company's board for 15 years. Hiten's Pick Prioritize the Highest Order Bit This is one of

Why I’ve been so quiet

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

As you may know, my startup FYI has been focused on helping people find documents across cloud apps. Turns out it's a dead end. Getting adoption... As you may know, my startup FYI has been focused

The 9 habits of ultra-fast iterations

Monday, May 10, 2021

When building a new product, focus less on perfecting product quality and more on doing things quickly and building out from the core. Hiten's Pick The Upsides to Unshipping What if we valued

You Might Also Like

AI's Potential Ouroboros Problem

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Jumping Jackrabbits! The ultimate echo chamber... AI's Potential Ouroboros Problem Jumping Jackrabbits! The ultimate echo chamber... By MG Siegler • 24 Jul 2024 View in browser View in browser

💡 8 Facebook Features You Should Be Using — Keep Your Old Game Consoles

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Also: How to Factory Reset a Chromebook, and More! How-To Geek Logo July 24, 2024 Did You Know The brand name of Leatherman multitools and knives isn't just a manly trademark; it's actually the

Charted | Average Wage Growth in G7 Countries (2000-2022) 📈

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

G7 countries have generally seen steady wage growth since 2000, but some certain countries are lagging behind. View Online | Subscribe Presented by: One Week Left to Claim Your VC+ Lifetime Membership

Daily Coding Problem: Problem #1506 [Hard]

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Daily Coding Problem Good morning! Here's your coding interview problem for today. This problem was asked by Salesforce. Given an array of integers, find the maximum XOR of any two elements.

Tech Deals 👀 Pixel 7a, Anker Earbuds, Hisense QLED TV, Robot Vacs, and More!

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Get a Pixel 7a, Anker's 65w Nano charger, and much more at big discounts. How-To Geek Logo July 24, 2024 Tech Deals: Pixel 7a, Anker Earbuds, Hisense QLED TV, Robot Vacs, and More! Get a Pixel 7a,

Why You Dont Need PNPM And YARN

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Top Tech Content sent at Noon! Find the hottest jobs from top tech companies Read this email in your browser How are you, @newsletterest1? 🪐 What's happening in tech today, July 24, 2024? The

Learn how Nolan Transportation increased sales

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

July 25, Discover AI playbooks to expedite onboarding and guide reps View as a web page TechCrunch Online Event Dialpad webinar on July 25 Learn to up your sales coaching game. And close deals faster.

7 password rules to live by now

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Credit Karma's new AI tools; Vision Pro's multiverse; Best sleep trackers -- ZDNET ZDNET Tech Today - US July 24, 2024 placeholder 7 password rules to live by in 2024, according to security

⚙️ In Taiwan, farmers had to give up their water to AI companies

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Plus: The FTC has a problem with surveillance pricing ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Join VC+ for a Lifetime of Insight - Offer ends soon!⏱

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The very best of Visual Capitalist, available for one simple payment. View email in browser Taking Visual Capitalist to the Next Level If you enjoy Visual Capitalist's regular work, you'll love